Just finished day 3 of the International Wine Challenge at Lords. It is going well, and I’m enjoying tasting with some excellent wine trade colleagues. Everyone seems to be a team player eager to do a professional job, and this makes my life as a panel chair a lot easier.
There are signs that spring is sort of coming, too, with some milky sunshine and slightly above freezing temperatures heading in the right direction. The grass at Lords is normally a vivid green at this time of year, but it’s still looking a bit wintry and brown-tinged at the moment. Some warmth is needed. They were testing the floodlights today.
After tasting we drink beer. Last night I had some Darkstar Hophead. It’s a lovely, drinkable, slightly hoppy, subtly bitter pale ale (3.8% alc) that tastes great from cask.
Today it was Darkstar Art of Darkness, a lovely brown ale with nice bitterness and some hoppy depth. Not a stout; more a black ale, at just 3.5% alcohol, with perfect balance. So drinkable.
And there was a tasting of Rioja wines. I’d tasted wine all day, but couldn’t resist trying these and taking some notes.
Bodegas Sonsierra Perfume de Sonsierra 2009 Rioja, Spain
Remarkable packaging. Quite bizarre, but I like it. The wine is quite good, too: modern, vivid and grippy with berry fruits underlain by firm, spicy, grippy structure. Fruit-driven. 88/100
Bodegas Baigorri Crianza Blanco Fermentado en Barrica 2010 Rioja, Spain
I liked this quite a bit. Lovely nutty, waxy nose with sweet pear, grapefruit and spice. The palate has well integrated oak, some nuttiness and nice fruit. Expressive. 91/100
Vina Ijalba Graciano Crianza 2009 Rioja, Spain
Super stuff: fresh, elegant cherry fruit nose leads to a supple cherryish palate with notes of herbs and spice. Nicely fresh and elegant with good acidity, and complex notes of tea and herbs. Lovely. 93/100
Bodegas Ontanon Reserva 2004 Rioja, Spain
Fresh and fruit driven with raspberry, cherry and plum fruit. Nice presence and fresh acidity with subtle spicy notes. Lots of fruit here. 91/100
Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2009 Rioja, Spain
Sweetly fruited and quite dense, this is a chunky, modern-styled wine but it isn’t inelegant. Lovely cherry, plum and spice characters. Some tannic grip. 92/100
Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2004 Rioja, Spain
Nicely complex with some spice and earth savouriness and a bit of grip under the berry fruits. Showing the first signs of maturity, this is drinking well now. 89/100
La Rioja Alta Grand Reserva 890 1995 Rioja, Spain
Serious stuff. Lovely sweet aromatic nose with fine herb, tea leaf and spice notes. Mature and complex, and quite delicate. Beautifully evolved and showing real elegance – drinking perfectly now. 94/100